Thanks to my duaI-faith family, I once carried the guilt of both the Jewish and the Catholic religions.
For years I felt like I could never do enough or be enough to appease the judgment of God. As a young boy growing up in Italy, the seeds of belief were planted that said God and I are separate, and I must always strive for His approval.
If I failed to meet God's expectations, I learned to believe that there awaits a pit of never-ending fire. That I must confess to my sins, lest I be sent into that pit forever. I learned to believe that beautiful Heaven will only welcome me if I live a life deemed worthy by this Hebrew God and his Holy book.
That's heavy -- especially for a young boy -- and by the time I was an adult, the roots of those beliefs had taken hold. They were very, very deep indeed.
I'm not saying guilt stems only from religion.
In fact, religious or not, most families have their own, personalized systems of guilt and shame distribution that get passed down for generations.
Often these systems look something like parents who strongly reprimand their child's past "wrong" for the purpose of preventing a future one. This system is typically fueled by a deep parental fear about who their child might become without the intervention of heavy-handed discipline. It's not conscious, however. Often, employing guilt and shame as a primary parenting technique is all the parent knows.
This results in both children and parents not understanding why the discipline is happening, but feeling guilty nonetheless. Both sides are stuck in a loop of guilt and punishment, both sides deepening the pattern of resistance to living their truth.
Once the seed of guilt is planted, it sprouts roots that manifest in a number of ways for many years to come. That is, unless we strive to know our guilt and release it.
Here is an example from my own life:
It was always expected that I would take over the family business. I'll never forget the guilt I experienced when I rejected my family's expectations and left Italy for the United States in pursuit of an unrelated career. For days and weeks and months I felt fear of going into the unknown.
Resistance showed up in many different ways. In my limiting beliefs and self-doubt, in the fearful voice that kept telling me I would fail, and finally, in my health. While making this life changing decision I was knocked off my feet for 10 days with the worst illness I have ever had.
My guilt caused fear, which caused resistance and stress, which caused illness. In other words, my resistance was giving me the opportunity to recognize that I was putting my fears before my calling. So much so that it landed me on my back for ten days.
To this day, I am forever appreciative of the financial and emotional support that was provided by my loving family. But, I had a calling. In the depths of my soul, I KNEW I was meant to do something else. I couldn't honor their vision without completely dishonoring my own.
As a coach, I look back on this decision and recognize its value.
At the time I felt so much resistance in making a choice in favor of my own desires and dreams. Yet, even though facing down my guilt was gut wrenching, by deciding to follow a path created by me, as opposed to the one prescribed by my family, I opened the door to progress in my evolution. I opened myself to the possibility of a greater version of who I really am. I created forward movement and growth in my life.
Why am I telling you this?
Because guilt begets fear. Fear begets resistance. And resistance offers a choice.
Resistance asks us a choice to retreat -- or to explore.
Resistance is a call to action. It's a call to discovery driven by wonder.
A fearless inquiry as to why you're resisting what's in front of you is an opportunity to unveil exactly what holds you back. Exploring your resistance will likely bring you to a moment in your ever-impressionable childhood that is so deep-rooted and hidden, you had no idea it held any power over you whatsoever.
But here's the deal: until you address your resistance, you will be forever paralyzed by the guilt that is beneath it. And when this happens, you stunt your evolution and growth.
Examining your resistance is like looking through a window to your soul. Resistance is here to teach you about who you were, who you are, and who you can become.
I understand that it's not easy to live in the spirit of openness, wonder, and consistent learning about yourself all the time. Sometimes doing so brings awareness to things you don't want to remember, or that you don't want to deal with.
That said, it's in these moments of exploration that I have been awarded the most courage.
Had I listened to my guilt when met with the desire to move to the United States, I would have never known the joy that would come from following my heart.
I would not have tasted the success and satisfaction that came with studying at University of Santa Monica.
I would not have experienced the growth that comes from stretching myself, or the fact that my family would eventually come around and feel pride for me and my path.
I would not have experienced the deep peace that accompanies knowing that I pursued and conquered my fear in the name of the person I'm meant to become.
In the process, I learned something valuable:
The strongest way to pursue a life with courage is to set strong intentions.
Intentions connect us to our source, which has a ripple effect that allows our source and the Universe to conspire so that our intention is fulfilled. At the same time, we're training our minds to create a connection with divine intelligence, a field of power within all of us, whose loving nature is at the center of creation and manifestation (a concept I consider to be a friendlier version of God than the Hebrew God of my childhood).
Here's a daily intention exercise to help.
At any time of day, and as often as it comes to mind, say this Louise Hay affirmation to yourself:
I am in the rhythm and flow of ever-changing life.
Soon you will start to pick up on the "eddies" and "snags" and even "dams" that hold up your flow. You will start to recognize that your resistance is guiding your inner awareness to something that needs to be unwound or released. You will align your being with divine intelligence and by one with the natural ebbs and flows of life as a result.
Because remember: it's not necessarily the change that you're resisting. (Often times you want change!)
What you're experiencing are the patterns of fear and guilt beneath your resistance. Your inner self then gives you the opportunity to free yourself and never have to face the same fear or guilt again.
So seize the opportunity.
Question your resistance.
Put fear in the back seat.
Forgive yourself for having guilt.
And CHOOSE a life of joy, love and possibility.
"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."
― Steven Pressfield